The past year may have been an unusual one filled with unpredictable situations around every corner, but there have been many positives as the auto industry embraced technology to continue selling and servicing amid shutdowns and social distancing. Consumers aren’t ready to give up the conveniences technology provided, so here are the digital marketing resolutions every dealer needs to keep in mind in the new year.
There have been many positives as the auto industry embraced technology to continue selling and servicing amid shutdowns and social distancing.
1. Resolve to be where your customers are.
More consumers are getting rid of cable and using streaming services to watch live sports, top shows, and hit movies. In fact, streaming services have increased their viewership by 60% over the past year. Amazon OTT (Over-the-Top) ads on streaming platforms allow dealers to advertise to their consumers on Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and more than 60 other services. Amazon OTT ads are unique in that they are highly targeted based on geography, shopping behaviors, viewing habits, and more. The ads also can’t be skipped by consumers and play full screen with sound.
2. Resolve to stay at the top of social media feeds.
Facebook and Instagram stories have been around for more than three years now, but many dealers still don’t take advantage of this prime digital real estate. These posts show up at the top of newsfeeds and are seen by more people. In fact, about 500 million people view Instagram stories every day.
3. Resolve to have more fun.
Social media platforms like TikTok tap into the desire for people to be playful and showcase their creativity. Dealers who aren’t afraid to have a little fun online can use this platform to reach a new generation of car buyers and service customers. TikTok is the fastest growing social network of all time. In June, TikTok was downloaded 87 million times worldwide, with 7.5 million of those downloads coming from the U.S.
4. Resolve to answer the questions consumers are asking.
Almost all vehicle research will intersect with YouTube at some point. Use this popular site to your advantage by making videos about consumer hot topics. Consider posting videos that compare and contrast two similar vehicles and explain any new features. According to the provider, YouTube is the top destination for auto purchasers to experience vehicles with video.
5. Resolve to include “Pinners” in your marketing plan.
Pinterest is for planners, and with automotive playing a bigger role on the popular image sharing site, there’s never been a better time to advertise on this unique social media platform. About 29 million auto service customers and 58% of U.S. adult internet users with incomes of more than $100,000 visit Pinterest every month. With unique data points, Pinterest is a great place to reach people researching future vehicle purchases.
6. Resolve to improve social posting.
Your social media shouldn’t always be a sales pitch. It’s great to include offers and incentives, but always use this tool to showcase how you support the community, celebrate happy customers, and highlight your rock star team members. Keep copy short and to the point, and use videos to grab attention and stop the scroll.
7. Resolve to create a social calendar and post frequently.
Get organized and plan ahead by using a social media calendar so you can be strategic about each post. A calendar also allows you to plan with needed graphics and photos and reminds your business of important upcoming events you want to post about.
8. Resolve to monitor your social media and respond in a timely manner.
The cost of ignoring social media can turn prospects away without you even knowing. Watch for users commenting on your posts and make sure you’re replying quickly in a personalized manner. People will appreciate personal, rapid responses and keep you in mind for future purchases.
9. Resolve to advertise on social media.
Use highly targeted ads on social media to reach new customers, engage current ones, and sell more. Create unique audiences and retarget website visitors to increase conversions. Remember to monitor your ads for comments. You’re paying for that content to be seen and you don’t want a negative comment on your ad to drive traffic away from your dealership and ruin your ROI.
10. Resolve to recruit top talent through social.
Your next rock star team member could be on social media. Be sure to post open positions and the benefits of working for your dealership not only on job sites, but on Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. Social media is a great place to connect with tech-savvy talent. Improve your star ratings as an employer by asking your team to write reviews about their experiences at your dealership.
11. Resolve to respond professionally.
Engaging in online arguments makes your dealership look bad. Make sure you calmly address any customer issues and show that you really care about resolving it. Also, take the conversation offline and provide direct contact information of a higher-level employee to assist in fixing the situation.
12. Resolve to boost your reputation scores.
Approximately 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Nearly three out of four consumers trust a company more if it has positive reviews, and 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business. If you’re not monitoring your reputation and protecting your brand in 2021, you are making a huge mistake. Make sure you are actively requesting reviews from happy customers, including by text message immediately after their purchase or service.
13. Resolve to survey customers to get more positive reviews.
Get your team trained and involved in communicating the survey process to your customers. The feedback you receive can be used to uncover opportunities for improvement and can be addressed before the customer posts something negative online. Even five-star survey responses can include valuable feedback. Make it easy for happy customers to post their positive feedback on top review sites by providing links in your survey.
14. Resolve to showcase your business free in Google search results.
More than 80% of all online searches are conducted on Google and 60% of customers check Google My Business for reviews. It’s imperative that your Google My Business page makes a great first impression. Highlight great services, inventory, special offers, job openings, customer testimonials, and more in your listing. Use photos, motion graphics, and video to capture attention and make the most of “zero-click search” traffic.
15. Resolve to use video to engage consumers.
In all, 74% of consumers say they’d prefer to learn about a product or service through video, and according to Google, there’s been a 40% increase in car video views this year. Grab your mobile phone or use a webcam to record simple videos that showcase vehicle features, dealership safety measures, service orders, and DIY service tips. Send the videos to customers via email or text to engage them and allow them to do more of their research from home.
16. Resolve to leverage AI assistants to qualify and capture leads.
People shop on their schedule, not yours. Lean on virtual chat assistants to field questions, capture leads, and schedule appointments on your website or Facebook 24/7. You can even use a chatbot as a digital receptionist to handle common questions and route shoppers to the right team members for that personal touch that doesn’t flood your inbox. More advanced AI chat programs provide integrations to empower car buyers to get pre-qualified for credit and estimate their vehicle trade-in value, ultimately doing more online so your team can focus on hot leads first.
17. Resolve to communicate with consumers in their preferred method.
Many consumers prefer messaging through text and chat platforms. Make it easy for them to connect with your dealership by providing phone numbers that can be text messaged on your website, Google My Business page, ads, and more. Make sure you are using technology to manage this so you can track leads, and so your team members aren’t sending messages from their personal devices.
18. Resolve to be read.
Almost 98% of text messages are read within three minutes, compared to only 20% of emails. Use bulk text/SMS messaging to communicate timely updates, dealership specials, new hours, and more to your customers.
19. Resolve to respond to all leads quickly and professionally.
According to 61% of car buyers, how quickly a dealer responds to their vehicle inquiry directly impacts their dealership selection. Be sure to respond quickly, include multiple vehicle options, your dealership “why buys,” current specials, and more. Also, be sure to answer any specific questions car buyers have.
20. Resolve to improve lead follow-up.
Digital Air Strike’s 8th annual Automotive Social Media & Online Trends study reports that 78% of people spend weeks to months researching vehicles before buying, so make sure you’re following up with car buyers well beyond their first inquiry. Many dealerships only have the bandwidth to handle customers right in front of them, so make sure you have a process or technology to engage with consumers that didn’t purchase.
21. Resolve to spend money wisely.
When is the last time you audited your budget? Are all vendors delivering ROI? Are you paying for duplicate services? Dig into the numbers and identify vendors that are true partners and are delivering results.
Krys VanSlyke is the vice president of operations at Digital Air Strike. He serves the bright people who help clients win through five-star implementation, fulfillment, and support of DAS products. Krys has been leading creative teams for 20 years and working in social media for business since he told his then-boss “our company should be on Twitter” back in 2008.